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Scams and Fraud: How To Stay Safe On Caravan Marketplaces

Buying or selling a caravan or motorhome should be a joyous occasion, and our platform should help to make this a smooth and enjoyable experience. Unfortunately, when dealing with large amounts of money, there will always be people who want to capitalise on this in an unlawful way.
Due to COVID-19 and restrictions to travel, there has been a dramatic decrease in face-to-face dealings with more people choosing to buy remotely. Although it’s positive that people are keeping safe, this has triggered a rise in scammers.
We have been assisting online caravan sales for some decades and in that time have shut down and reported many fraudulent listings and untrustworthy sellers. Most have been flagged automatically from scam tests in our system, but unfortunately, some manage to slip through the net.
This is why you must be vigilant when engaging with both sellers and buyers online. There are a number of things you could look out for to make sure that the ad you’re looking at or your potential buyer is legitimate.
What to look out for:

1. Does the advert seem too good to be true?

More often than not, when you see a deal that looks like the steal of the century, it probably is, but not for you. Scammers often copy other businesses' credentials and advertise identical vehicles but at silly prices.
If you're unsure, take a look at similar models on the market. Usually, these scams are priced at 30-70% less than they should be.
Tip - You could request a video call to see the caravan/motorhome in their possession. If they are advertising as a business, you can ask for a photograph of their ID. If they deny your requests, this is a good point to walk away.

2. Are they asking for bank details and personal information?

Even if you believe you are dealing with a legitimate business, only your bank will ever ask for a PIN or passwords. We will never ask for your details, and the same goes for any of our associated dealers.
Tip - If the seller is a business, search the internet for some proof of their legitimacy including social media channels, Google reviews and posts on forums. If you can’t find any of these, then it may be a sign that the business is fake. 

3. Are they sending messages and emails with links?

This is another tactic, known as phishing, used to extract your bank details. These messages are typically about 'suspicious activity on your account' or eligibility to a fake refund. These messages are used to lure people into providing sensitive data such as payment credentials and passwords.
Tip - Verify the authenticity of the domain by searching it on Google before you click on the link.

4. Are they asking for a deposit or fee before you’ve seen the vehicle?

It’s really important to beware of advanced fee fraud, where scammers encourage you to make large upfront payments for vehicles that then turn out not to exist. Similarly, scam buyers could take part in the overpayment scam where they get you to ‘refund’ them amounts of money in the process. Their cheque then doesn’t clear and you’re left out of pocket.
Never send payment to a seller when you have not seen the vehicle for proof that it exists.
Be cautious with those that make offers before a viewing, as well as sellers who push for the 10% deposit early on in the conversation or ask for 20% or more! If the vendor doesn't seem co-operative, is too pushy or isn’t willing for you to get an independent survey, walk away.

5. Are they suggesting to be a middle man?

Occasionally someone will contact our sellers claiming to have the perfect buyer ready for them, and they’ll set them up for the sale for a fee. Needless to say, these ‘perfect buyers’ don’t exist and these middle men will take the fee and disappear.
We therefore suggest that you never send money to one of these scammers. There will be other legitimate buyers out there and losing out on this money is not worth the risk.

6. Is the person using COVID-19 as an excuse for untrustworthy behaviour?

We have recently seen some sellers using the pandemic to further their scams. This can be excuses such as not being able to show you the caravan due to restrictions or that the seller is shielding so they will hold the caravan for you for a deposit.
We must remind you that even during these uncertain times, we would never advise sending money when you haven't seen the caravan or have proof that it's real. 

7. Is the buyer from overseas?

Often, 'buyers from overseas' are actually scammers who pay the full price but then ask the seller to pay for a transport company. This is a PayPal chargeback scam.
Read this guide about these scams and how to prevent them >

8. Is the seller using a sad story to flog the caravan for really cheap?

Some scammers use a tragic story to convince buyers of why they are advertising at such a low price, or claim they have 'just moved away'. This is a way to try to get people to send over deposits without having seen the vehicle. As mentioned previously, we urge you not to send any payment until you have proof that the caravan is real and/or you have seen it in the flesh and avoid sellers who try to push you into a faster sale due to a sad backstory. 

9. Have you been offered a service that gives you top listings on all classified websites?

Some scammers are messaging sellers offering top listings on all classified websites, as well as promising visibility on the first page of Google and other search engines. These messages sound very professional but they should not be trusted. They will offer a one off price of over £100 and you will receive no extra exposure/promotion following this exchange.

10. Have you received an untrustworthy email?

Some brokers and sellers have received untrustworthy emails from long email addresses such as [email protected]. These are not to be trusted. You will never receive emails from us asking for payment, bank details or getting involved in your deal. We are simply the platform that facilitates the purchase and we will never be involved with the payment or delivery.

11. How are they wanting to pay for the vehicle?

  • If they want to pay in cash, we’d suggest you accompany them to the bank so that a cashier can check for fake notes.
  • If they want to pay by cheque, don’t hand over the vehicle until the payment has cleared, as people can write cheques they later cancel or have issued without the available funds in their account. 
Tip:The safest method of payment is always an online bank transfer as you will quickly be able to see the money available in your account.
As awful as it is that these scams can take place, we can work together to prevent people from losing out. If you see something suspicious or are dealing with anything that doesn't seem quite right on our website, click the exclamation/warning button underneath the ads or Email Us at [email protected] with the subject line: Potential Scam.

Abbie Rogers
Marketing Executive
Published on 14-01-2021
Abbie is a member of the Caravans for Sale marketing team. She will provide weekly content covering a range of topics including advice, how to guides, travel blogs, technical advice and latest news.